Friday, August 19, 2016

Drawing in Perspective (Day 4)

This is my "A Day in the Life of..." post for August 18th, the third day of school:

7:45 -- I arrive at my school.

8:00 -- I report to the playground, where many students are beginning to arrive. The students are told to gather in a circle for the flag salute.

8:25 -- My first class, a seventh grade class, arrives. Today there is a confrontation with one of the seventh graders. She refuses to do her work, then argues with my student support aide, who asks her to leave the room. I am the teacher, so I should have tried to intervene sooner, though it still might not have made much difference. It is only Day 3, but I already know there's one girl I'll need to watch out for this year.

9:45 -- My seventh graders leave and my eighth graders arrive. Throughout the entire first week of school, I am giving the same activities for all three grades. I begin with a warm-up:

What comes next? 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, _____

The answer is 18 -- and of course today is the 18th. Most students answer this one correctly.

9:55 -- The previous day we discussed the classroom rules. Today I pass out Behavior Contracts for all of the students. Each student writes down the rules we agreed to, and then the students take them home for the parents to sign. In this way, each student is to be made accountable for his or her own behavior throughout the year -- and if a parent requests a conference, I can just take out the contract and let the parents know that their child has violated that contract.

10:25 -- I move on to the Music Break. Today I play the Square One TV song "Count on It," another song about the need to learn math.

Here are the lyrics, courtesy the following link:

Count On It

Lead vocals by Larry Cedar

Sooner or later, you’re gonna see some math
You can count on it
Sooner or later, those numbers cross your path
You can count on it
You may be hoping it will go away
But let me tell you, math is here to stay
You can count on it, hoo, yeah
You can count on it
Everywhere you look, they’re measuring the action
You can count on it
Everywhere you look, they’re even using fractions
You can count on it
They’re keeping time, and they’re keeping the score
They draw the line, and they’re running the store
You can count on it, hoo
Yeah, you can count on it
Look at the dial; look at how far
Look at how much; look where we are
Look at the gauge; look at the graph
Check out the numbers; you’ve got the last laugh
‘Cause it ain’t mystery; there’s nothing tough about it
You can count on it, that’s right
Soon you’re gonna see that you couldn’t live without it
You can count on it, hoo
Don’t take a genius or a great magician
To make a pretty good mathematician
You can count on it, hoo, yeah
Yeah, you can count on it, whoo
Oh, you can count on it, whoo
Baby, you can count on it
(fade out over Larry singing skat)
In the video the song is played on saxophones, but the only instruments I'll ever play in class are drums and a guitar. Today I play the song on drums.

10:35 -- Finally, the main lesson is another Opening Activity, on number patterns. In this lesson, students use inductive reasoning to find patterns in sequences of numbers, letters, and names.

My number patterns worksheet is better organized, since I've added two simpler sequences to the top to make the worksheet more inviting. Students enjoy the challenge of trying to be the first person to get a question right to earn the participation point. Question 1 is just the sequence of odd numbers -- similar to the even numbers from the Warm-Up, while Question 5 is the famous Fibonacci sequence.

On this worksheet, I had to help my students out with Exercise 7, which refers to George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, so the correct answer is another James (Monroe), another John (Quincy Adams), and then Andrew (Jackson).

Exercise 8 looks similar, but this time it refers to money -- George Washington ($1), Thomas Jefferson ($2), Abe Lincoln ($5), and Alexander Hamilton ($10). So the correct answer is Andrew (Jackson again, $20), Ulysses (Grant, $50), and then it's all about Benjamin (Franklin, $100). I also point out that in ten years, the next name after Alexander won't be Andrew, but Harriet -- as in Harriet Tubman, who will be on the $20 bill soon.

10:55 -- I give the students the following Exit Pass:

I will turn in my Behavior Contract with a...

The answer, of course, is "parent signature." I try to give those with the correct answer a stamp -- except that my stamp pad is missing. I see one student covered in blue ink, and the missing pad is on her desk. Other girls sitting next to her say that she's stolen my stamp pad. But I can already tell that the ink-covered girl isn't very popular with her classmates. She might have taken the pad, but it's possible that the student sitting next to her took it and stamped the poor girl in order to frame her. It is something I will watch out for as the year proceeds.

11:05 -- My eighth graders leave for nutrition.

11:25 -- My sixth grade class arrives. I repeat the same activities as I did with the older students.

12:45 -- My sixth grade class goes out to lunch.

1:25 -- The students dress for P.E. for the first time. Due to a quirk in the schedule, the students get dressed for P.E., yet have one more class to attend before P.E. actually starts!

1:35 -- My eighth grade class returns for a special "Math Intervention" class. Just as with the sixth graders back on the first day of school, there is special software for the class, but I spend the entire period acquainting the students with the laptops, including making sure that the students all have the correct password.

2:35 -- My eighth graders go out to P.E. class.

4:00 -- I go home for the day.

Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day. Here is today's Blaugust topic, in which I discuss a decision I made that will help me be organized:

19. What are your best organizational tips?

Well, my school provides every teacher with a green file folder for each student. Within each folder we are to put all of the student's work, beginning with the Behavior Contracts that I mentioned in the previous post, followed by the results of next week's Benchmark Tests. So as you can see, the file contains both academic and behavior information. This way, if a parent asks about a specific student, all the necessary information is right there in the folder.

But I still have some work to do before my file folders are completely organized. You see, I looked into the teacher's desk and saw that there aren't enough folders for every student. I see a filing cabinet that might contain some folders -- except it's locked and I don't have the key -- oops! Hopefully, I'll get organized in my class, eventually. Once that happens, I should have a very strong organized system, especially if I can get into that filing cabinet.

Oh, and here's one more organizational tip -- if you have trays for the students to turn in work, keep it away from the doors so that the wind won't blow papers around. I found that out the hard way in my class today.

Speaking of class, today I gave the last of the opening week activities previously posted on the blog -- Designing Buildings. This is what I wrote earlier about this activity:

And as it turns out, Nguyen covered something similar to this in her class as well:

Nguyen's lesson takes a different approach to drawing three-dimensional figures. For one, the focus on this lesson is on buildings. Her lesson begins by having some buildings already drawn and the students counting the "rooms" and "windows." (As it turns out, one "room" is one cubic unit of volume, and one "window" is one square unit of lateral area.)

I like the way that Nguyen's lesson begins. Unlike the bridge problem, where I wanted to avoid beginning the school year with a problem that's impossible to solve, here we begin with a very solvable problem. The only issue I have is with the second question, because it requires materials. I work from the assumption that most classrooms don't have the blocks and isometric dot paper that Nguyen's classroom has.

(As an aside, notice that cubes drawn on isometric dot paper are definitely not in perspective. This is because, while edges perpendicular on the cube intersect at 120 degrees on the iso dot paper, edges parallel on the cube remain parallel on the paper. Therefore there are no vanishing points.)

Then again, my worksheet is very similar to Nguyen's. On the front side, I gave the same example as she did and the three buildings for the students also come from the Ventura County teacher. I used two of her easier buildings -- A and B -- and the more challenging Building F.

The back side of my worksheet differs slightly from Nguyen's, though. Her worksheet specified the number of rooms and windows and asked the students to draw the buildings. Mine, on the other hand, simply has the students draw four different buildings with eight rooms and then asks them to count the number of windows in each one.

Now that I'm giving this activity in an actual classroom, I don't have any interlocking cubes (which I can only assume means "Lego bricks"), but I did find some small manipulative cubes. There weren't enough for me to give every group eight cubes (as specified in the assignment) -- instead I gave five to each group of sixth graders and seven to each group of seventh graders. (Half the seventh graders were absent because they hadn't satisfied California's 7th grade vaccination requirement.) The eighth grade groups did receive the full set of eight cubes. I believe that having actual blocks certainly helped the students visualize the three-dimensional buildings.

By the way, here are the rules the middle school classes came up with as part of the Rules Posters. At last I'm done discussing the rules here on the blog:

1. Raise your hand
2. Be silent and listen when it's someone else's turn to speak
3. Stay in your seat
4. Keep your hands to yourself
5. Keep the desks free of drawing
6. Treat the books, papers, and any other resources like you would treat your own items
7. Keep your voice at a conversational level
8. Allow the speaker to finish before you raise your hand
9. Speak in a respectful manner
10. Stay on task, work hard, and do your best!

Here I post the same worksheet that I gave in the past, since the only change I made was the number of cubes (which was on the fly).


  1. I must say, seeing "Square One" here was amazing, I grew up watching that... it might even be part of the reason I include music parodies in my mathematics. I found some of the social dynamics here interesting, with the one uncooperative person and then the issue with the stamp - I wonder if I would have picked up on it. I definitely wouldn't have been able to figure out US presidents. ^.^ Interesting perspective work with the cubes, that's more my speed.

    FYI, I’ve linked/summarized this particular post in my DITLife roundup (as well as your recent post on Middle Schools). Let me know if that’s a problem. (

  2. Thanks for reading and including my post! Yes, I definitely enjoy Square One songs in my classes whenever I can!